Next week, it’ll be November. The summer that I tried to hang on to for as long as humanly possible has slipped through my fingers, My grip is still tight, but I’m not longer holding anything. Fall has come and fall has shown us her colors, and we did not blush. Indian Summer has, likely, come and gone, and since it was warm and it was long, I was appreciative. We all were. And now, with October turning to November, the young fall has turned old, leaves that were green have turned to red and yellow and now brown, and landscapes that were vibrant have faded to sepia. We have lost our summer and we have lost our young fall, and now it is time for the month that falls between today and April that I love the most. November.
There is soul searching in a dark November. The race has been run, the boats have been stowed (except mine, but more on that later), and the piers that haven’t been stacked neatly on the shore will soon surrender their bolts and collapse into a pile as they do every year. November isn’t a month to rush and it isn’t a month to waste. It’s a month to savor and to dwell and to feel a bad mood coming on and enjoy it while the scenery reflects your own dour flavor.
Some Novembers ago, I would sit on a park bench in Williams Bay. This was before Edgewater Park was edged with weeds, when someone could slouch on a cold November park bench and see the lake without sitting up straight. I would sit on this bench and stare at the lake. These nights, as I remember them, were always still. There was no wind to stir a wave, there were no shore path walkers in sight, and cars only slipped past silently and without regularity. I would sit and I would watch and I would breath the cold November air and in a setting that most might deem sad, I would feel happy. I would sit until the cold of the bench worked through my jeans and into my bones, and then I would walk to the stream and cast my line into the riffle where the stream joined the lake. I knew there were brown trout in that riffle, but only because I once saw one pulled from that stream as I rode past on my bike on some dark November afternoon as many as 20 years ago.
I would cast and retrieve, cast and retrieve, never expecting to catch anything but knowing that if I didn’t cast and retrieve, my fate was already sealed. I couldn’t catch without casting, and so I cast. The lure would plunk into the silence, a splash that sometimes I’d see and sometimes I wouldn’t, and I’d reel and reel hoping to be interrupted by the strike of a fish. I was never interrupted. I would sit and then I would cast and I would breath out and I would breath in, with November as my only companion. Lights that glitter on the shoreline all summer are still present in November, but what in July is a shoreline alive with laughter and dimly lit screened porches is in November a quiet place that one could mistake for desolation if one didn’t know better. Some remember nights of wild parties or lasting victories and count them as cherished memories. I remember silent November nights when the air was colder than fall but not icy as winter.
In summer, winding roads are shrouded with bright green trees, dense and lush, and this is beautiful. But in November, after the loud fall leaves have fallen, a drive down winding roads reveals so much more. Houses that were barely visible in August are laid bare in November, providing a glimpse at real estate as it looks with the curtain pulled back. That little cottage you looked at in July looked so snug inside that little cocoon of foliage, but in November, with the illusion of leafy privacy gone, the view out the back porch now reveals the neighbors 1983 Chevy that hasn’t run since 1993. November is dark and somber indeed, but it also reveals what summer had previously hidden.
This November, if you’re ever in town on a Tuesday night, you might see me, and if you do, you might be tempted to judge me. I might be sitting, or I might be standing, casting and retrieving, quietly but methodically, with only the light from a lone street light at my back and a deep expanse of water to my south. I’ll be breathing the cold air and thinking about all the nights that I’ve enjoyed November in a way that most people don’t. It’s another Lake Geneva November, coming Tuesday to any Edgewater Park bench you choose.